My first half marathon experience

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

My First Half Marathon

2:38:25.

These might be my lottery numbers from now on.

I consider myself a “newbie” when it comes to running and wondered at the end of my first half marathon if I qualified for calling myself a runner yet. The verdict is still out, as I have had varying responses to that question.

The Spartan Sprint preceded my first half marathon, which is 3+ miles of trail running and obstacles courses. For each obstacle you fail, you are to complete 30 burpees. While training for the Spartan race, I found myself running between 6-8 miles. After the Spartan I was so pumped up and I thought, “Why not move on to the next challenge?” which led me to sign up for the half marathon. I felt that I was in the best shape that I had been in for a while, so this would be the best time to do it. Ironically, when I say “the best shape” I don’t mean the thinnest I have ever been. Instead, I feel the strongest and with the most stamina. The stamina must come from my belly, ‘cause my belly is as big as it’s ever been (I plan to focus on that next!).

1. The Playlist: I didn’t utilize a playlist in my training program. I usually run to Pandora radio, which I almost always have on the same station. For my half marathon, I decided to take the time to make my own “set list” and even spend money on iTunes, downloading music to make sure I had exactly what I wanted. This felt like a luxury to me, but a necessary one.

I feel having a playlist helped me through the race. Particular songs seemed to come on at just the right time to get me through difficult aspects of the race. At mile 9, I was approaching one of the most heinous hills of our course. I had ran hills in the area of the race as part of my training, and told myself that on hills I would look down at the ground in front of me and not up above at the hill ahead. By mile 9, most of the runners around me were walking this hill, but I had planned to not stop running. With most everyone around me walking this hill, I was tempted to walk it myself, but right at this time a fun, inspiring song came up on my playlist that gave me the energy to run up the hill. That may have been a rookie mistake. Maybe I should have just walked that hill like I had walked a few others, but DJ Kaled “I’m Always Winning” got me through the hill of mile 9 without stopping.

The aspect of my playlist that I fell short on was not having enough music to last through the whole half marathon. I only allowed myself 2 hours and 30 minutes of music. I felt that allowing myself more minutes of music just seemed like I was giving myself permission to take longer. Even though my goal was to just finish this race with no particular time, I was shooting for 2:30 to 3:00 hours. Anyway, right at mile 12 my music just stopped, period. The sudden cease of the music just about stopped me dead in my tracks right as I was facing the last mile AND a final hill which ended at the finish line! I floundered a bit, when a man across the street yelled across four lines of road, “YOU’VE GOT THIS!” Blinded by the sun, I muddled with my phone to get Pandora turned on and took off running up that last hill.

2. The Clothes: This topic includes shoes as well; so let me cover that aspect first. I had some new shoes from Christmas that had not even been broken in yet. I got them out and started running with them when the weather had finally gotten a bit sunny. Fresh new tennies! I read that switching off between two pairs of shoes was a good idea. I had one pair that I had been running with most of the time, and then I started breaking in the new ones. I also read that many people get black toes from running. I hadn’t had that experience until recently and read that it could be due to shoes being too small. I think my left big toe was rubbing the top of the new running shoes and it was bruised like a stubbed toe. The shoes were the right size, but they were a gift so I had not tried them on and probably could have gone up a size for running. I took off from running the week before the half marathon and decided to go back to my former shoes for the race because they didn’t seem to rub my toe. Shortly into the race, my toe was hurting. I was like, “Yikes, oh no!” Then, after about a mile, the toe stopped hurting. I thought, “Well that toe nail came off, that’s why it’s not hurting anymore. It just rubbed right off!” I kept thinking that I was going to feel it moving around in my shoe! Much to my surprise, when I went home after the race and took off my shoes, my big toe nail was still there, although it is raised a bit and looks bruised underneath.

The weather presented a dilemma because it kept changing so much here in lovely Indiana. My potential attire went from shorts and a tank top to full winter gear! This was actually a bit stressful because I knew that I needed to have trained in gear quite regularly prior to the race. I ended up wearing a Nike tank that I purchased the week before the race, and therefore not trained in, along with capri pants and a jacket that had been through a trial period. I ended up having no problem with any of my clothing and I had utilized some chafing lotion for the first time. Hats off to Nike for that great running tank, however, quite honestly, I find that Under Armour is truly the best running gear, and naturally Brooks’ shoes.

3. The Training- This being my first half marathon, I had a lot of questions about training. I really don’t know if you can have too much training and I also wasn’t sure if I had enough. A few weeks prior to the run, the furthest I ran was 8 miles. I advanced from being a 5k person to 6 and 8 miles fairly easily and quickly. One week prior to the race I set out to do my farthest run. This run was going along quite well and my plan was to stop and walk after an hour, take in some water and then continue on to my second half. I did all of this and had been making pretty good time, but my legs and knees began to complain and they really did not want to get going again! I tried to run a bit, but I was concerned about injuring myself one week prior to the race. I ended up running 7 miles and walking 3 for a total of 10. This is where I came to the conclusion that on race day, I just needed to keep going. If I stopped, my fear was that my legs would not want to keep going. Early in the race I was feeling pain in my knees and I just kept telling myself, “Ignore the pain in your legs, it’s just your body changing. They are getting stronger. It will be fine tomorrow. Keep moving.” I was telling myself to ignore them like OZ, the man behind the curtain. This seemed to work for me, but the last 3 miles were the most difficult. I really had to push, just telling myself, “It’s just going to take that much longer if you walk and your knees and legs are not going to hurt any less. They hurt just as much walking!”

I had a deep tissue massage the day before the race to handle some pre race jitters. After the massage was scheduled I read that if you were going to do this, you should schedule it a week before the race, and NOT the week of. I decided to go ahead with it since it was already scheduled. I have these routinely so I thought it probably wouldn’t make much difference since my body should be used to it. I’m not really sure what the impact was from the massage and whether it helped or hindered my process. But my intent was to rest and regroup during the week prior to the race so in addition to the massage, I did one night of yoga at home with my husband, and some mild bike riding the day after my last long run.

4. The Weather: The weather was predicted to be 40 degrees that morning and not really expected to change much between 7 and 9 am. The horrible weather this year has truly impeded my training and running outside. I ran a 5k on Thanksgiving and it was 23 degrees, the St. Patrick’s 5k I ran was about 32 degrees. I’ve decided that cooler is better, but I like the sun out. The day of the half marathon was so overcast that I almost didn’t even take my sunglasses, which are a staple for me when running. I ended up taking them because I knew I would be upset without them. I’m glad I did because the sun did come out, but I started off the run with gloves on!

5. The Recovery: I had spent many evenings reading about how to prepare and train for a half marathon but none on how to recover. I had to walk some distance after the race to get to our vehicle to drive home. Turns out, this is actually recommended to wind down. Instinctively, when I got home I knew that my body needed a nutrition replacement so I blended up a smoothie with yogurt, milk, protein, banana and peanut butter. I started a hot bath with Epsom salt while I was fixing up my protein shake, and also popped two Aleve gel caps. I later read that cold baths are recommended. After my bath and laid down for a little bit, unable to actually even nap during this time, so I got some social media support and accolades for my accomplishment. Then I enjoyed a nice, no frills lunch prepared by my husband, which consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich, some green beans, olives, beets and water. We went to some ballgames for some children in our family and enjoyed a nice dinner out that night at Red Lobster with our parents. I still haven’t had that hot fudge Sundae that I promised myself after this half marathon!

So you got it, my lottery numbers, and my finish time. I will take it for my first half. It was within my estimated time although I told myself my goal was just to finish. I knew negative splits were recommended, but felt I was not experienced enough to do this on my first run. There were pace runners on our race, which I felt was helpful. I stayed with my pace group over half of the race, until about mile 8 where I fell behind the 2:30 pace setter. Crossing the finish line was a personal victory!  What is your next personal victory?

The importance of fun in our lives

People’s health and well-being are improved if they are able to engage in activities that are meaningful and pleasurable and that health is a balance of work, play and leisure. Recent research identified the essential components of playfulness in adults as creativity, curiosity, humour, spontaneity and pleasure.Playfulness is an internal predisposition that enables adults to incorporate play in both work and leisure activities. Different activities can be pleasurable for different people and can also be pleasurable at one time and more of a chore at another.Take cooking for instance: cooking dinner for the family, after a long day at work is not quite as pleasurable as cooking for friends and family on the weekend.If someone fails to gain meaning or pleasure in his work, he may become burnt out or his performance may be affected. It’s finding that balance between play and work that is important.Western society needs to acknowledge that leisure and pleasure are not wastes of time. They can renew people’s energy to meet daily challenges and often motivates people to increase their performance. All work and no play can make Jack not only a dull boy but one whose health is in jeopardy.Making time for a balance of workplay and leisure is not easy. Relationships with others, both at work and in your personal life, are an integral part of whether life will seem manageable and enjoyable. Nurturing and fostering interpersonal relationships takes time and energy. You may feel fragmented or overwhelmed if you are not achieving a sense of balance.Your work and relationships will suffer if you are not managing to meet your needs and responsibilities, in addition to considering the needs of others at your workplace and in your personal life. Of course you cannot do everything! Ask yourself, “Am I doing things that are the most important to me? Am I spending time with those I love? Am I making time for both work and play?”

Having balance of work, play and leisure in your life will be easier if you:

• Know your values
• Identify priorities
• Reduce unnecessary things
• Set some goals and make a plan
• Revisit priorities and goals occasionally

A value is important to the person who holds it. What changes with time and growth is the ranking of values in relation to other values.

Values are expressed:
• By ways you talk and act; by ways you use time and energy
• Through actions at work and play (leisure)
• Through choices in the market place Priorities are activities and relationships that you give first attention to because you have ranked them as highly important. When setting priorities, ask yourself:
• Is this important? To whom? Is this urgent? To whom? Is this necessary at all?
Unnecessary things in your life include some stressors, unresolved conflict, bad habits, poor planning skills and unrealistic expectations. For example, do you have unnecessary conflict with a coworker or have unrealistic expectations by striving for perfection?

Finding balance with your work and personal life, including play, can be accomplished.
• Select goals and dreams that support values.
• Do things that will bring you closer to your goals.
• Take action to do things out of your comfort zone. Be willing to take some risks.
• Respond to challenges and disappointments positively. “What can I learn from this?”
• Share your needs with others and seek their support. Be willing to ask for help. Getting a handle on the stress in your life will help you make time for work and play and feel good about your general well-being.
• Locate the sources of stress
• Work off the effects of stress physically
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle
• Talk with someone you trust about your concerns or problems
• Accept what you cannot change
• Organize what you can, without being a perfectionist and unduly hard on others
• Realize that you do not control the emotions or behavior of others; you influence others
• Avoid self-medication and the misuse of alcohol and drugs
• Make time for recreation and for having fun
• Do something for others
• Take one thing at a time
• Compromise. You don’t always have to have it done your way. Agree to disagree.
• Get away from it for a while (this can be done on a tight budget with limited time.) Ask yourself these questions.
• What things cause me stress (my stressors)? How might I reduce my stress load?
• What are the most personal things (work, activities, relationships) to me?
• Is my personal life in balance? Do I feel good about my personal life?
• Is my work life in balance? Do I feel good about my work life?
• Am I spending time doing things (work, activities, relationships) most important to me?

One normally has to work for a living. To live a full life, one also needs play and leisure. Leisure time is important because it helps us breathe and gives us the opportunity to discover ourselves and grow. It also satisfies the needs that are not fulfilled at work. Sometimes we are stuck in jobs that are tedious and lacklustre.

Taking time off to indulge in what interests us makes us a better person. We all know the importance of the three Rs of leisure – relaxation, recreation and rest. They help us have a positive attitude to life, develop a balanced perspective and make us look at situations in a new way.

Deadlines are always looming and the clock never seems to stop ticking. So what can be done in order to balance work and relaxation? Well, the first thing you can do is prioritise tasks. We often end up doing work that is urgent but not important. Keep your focus on the important stuff, once that is out of the way, you can decide what deserves your attention next.

Plan ahead: The best plans are written down on paper. The best method is to first make a list of all the things you have to do and then categorise them into A, B and C lists basing on their importance. Once you are through with a task, be sure to cut it out from the list – this gives a feeling of great satisfaction. When you plan ahead, you will be able to estimate the time needed to complete your work commitments. This will help you assess the best time to take a holiday.

Learn to say no: Be more realistic about how much work you can take on. Be honest with yourself about the length of time it’ll actually take to complete a project and about the number of projects you can handle at any given moment. . Keep your focus on the most important aspects of your own job.

.Exercise: It is a well-known fact that when we are active, the body produces endorphins which keep us healthy and happy. Half an hour spent at the gym will help keep your thoughts off work, thus providing relaxation as well as health.

Take up the long-neglected hobby you enjoy: The right pastime can be so absorbing that it takes your mind off work and helps you relax. Group activities such as tennis or basketball strengthen your bonds with your colleagues apart from helping you unwind.

Aim to experience something new each day: It can be as simple an activity as tasting a new dish or viewing sunset with your friends or even taking a walk alone in the park. Discover your inner self.

You might love your work immensely, but remember that it is only a part of your life. In order to lead a well- balanced life, one should have interests outside work. Indulging in these activities also reduces stress and makes us develop a positive attitude toward life. Relaxing and having fun need to be a permanent part of our lives – they make life worth living.

Self esteem

Self Rejection is the most universal, and least recognized problem in our lives.  It is the source of all our difficulties in giving and receiving love.  This is what makes positive affirmations so important.  Many of us are filled with negative self talk and doubts, unconscious belief systems that control our daily activities, choices and reactions to situations.

Patterns of negative or positive self-talk often start in childhood. Usually, the self-talk habit is one that’s colored our thinking for years, and can affect us in many ways, influencing the experience of stress to our lives. However, any time can be a good time to change it! Here are some ways you can stop yourself from using negative self-talk and use your mind to boost your productivity and self-esteem, and relieve stress.

Notice Your Patterns:
The first step toward change is to become more aware of the problem. You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience. The following strategies can help you become more conscious of your internal dialogue and its content.

Journal Writing:
Whether you carry a journal around with you and jot down negative comments when you think them, write a general summary of your thoughts at the end of the day, or just start writing about your feelings on a certain topic and later go back to analyze it for content, journaling can be an effective tool for examining your inner process.

Thought-Stopping:
As you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought mid-stream my saying to yourself “Stop”. Saying this aloud will be more powerful, and having to say it aloud will make you more aware of how many times you are stopping negative thoughts, and where.

Rubber-Band Snap:
Another therapeutic trick is to walk around with a rubber band around your wrist; as you notice negative self-talk, pull the band away from your skin and let it snap back. It’ll hurt a little, and serve as a slightly negative consequence that will both make you more aware of your thoughts, and help to stop them! (Or, if you don’t want to subject yourself to walking around with a rubber band on your wrist, you’ll be even more careful to limit the negative thoughts!)

Replace Negative Statements:
A good way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with something better. Once you’re aware of your internal dialogue, here are some ways to change it:

Milder Wording:
Have you ever been to a hospital and noticed how the nurses talk about ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘pain’? This is generally done because ‘pain’ is a much more powerful word, and discussing your ‘pain’ level can actually make your experience of it more intense than if you’re discussing your ‘discomfort’ level. You can try this strategy in your daily life. In your self-talk, turning more powerful negative words to more neutral ones can actually help neutralize your experience. Instead of using words like ‘hate’ and ‘angry’ (as in, “I hatetraffic! It makes me so angry!”), you can use words like ‘don’t like’ and ‘annoyed’ (“I don’t like traffic; it makes me annoyed,” sounds much milder, doesn’t it?)

Change Negative to Neutral or Positive:
As you find yourself mentally complaining about something, rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming something is a negative event when it isn’t, necessarily? (For example, having your plans cancelled at the last minute can be seen as a negative, but what you do with your newly-freed schedule can be what you make of it.) The next time you find yourself stressing about something or deciding you’re not up to a challenge, stop and rethink, and see if you can come up with a neutral or positive replacement.

Change Self-Limiting Statements to Questions:
Self-limiting statements like “I can’t handle this!” or “This is impossible!” are particularly damaging because they increase your stress in a given situation and they stop you from searching for solutions. The next time you find yourself thinking something that limits the possibilities of a given situation, turn it into a question. Doesn’t “How can I handle this?” or “How is this possible?” sound more hopeful and open up your imagination to new possibilities?

You can also help yourself develop more positive self talk by bringing more positive energy into your life.